Sunday, March 29, 2020

What If

What if tomorrow we had our last
And our future suddenly met our past
What if we didn't have another day
And a bigger plan now blocked our way

What if our dreams have met their end
Without a daydream left to spend
And those we did not quite achieve
Laid broken for our souls ro grieve

What if we left some things unsaid
And did not bury things long dead
What if we failed to mend a hurt
Before we filled the hole with dirt

What if this was the final call
Would we step up to answer all
What if our judgement day was here
Are we righteous people without fear

Did we live our lives without regret
And love the others that we met
Did we make the most of every day
And help those lost to find the way

What if tomorrow all was lost
And we had to pay the final cost
Would we say we saw it all
Or would just accept the fall

If you feel you forgot to live
Or the blessings how we can forgive
Reach long and hard within your heart
It's not too late to embrace the start

Tomorrow is no guarantee
For anyone like you and me
So make the best of every day
And together we can find our way













Thursday, March 26, 2020

Tribute To Richard Fink

Good morning.  I have a heavy heart for some extended family today.  I'd like to share some of those feelings with all of you.

Growing up in a somewhat rural area meant not having a whole lot of other kids living close to me.  However, I was blessed beyond words to have the Fink family a short distance away.  All of the kids were older than me, some significantly so, but for some reason they took me in anyway.  In many ways I became the kid brother, kind of like the ones that would suddenly show up in a sitcom once the main kids weren't as young and cute anymore.  I hung around the house for weekends and summers on end, always feeling welcome and loved.

When speaking about people, we often overuse words like "larger than life" or "one of a kind", but Richard (the Dad of the family) was truly those things.  But he was not a boisterous person, in fact he was quite the opposite.  He was genuine, honest, and quiet to some degree.  What he said had purpose.  Once you got to know him you could find a gentle side that liked to laugh and tell the tales of his experiences.  His stories would be captivating in their unbelievable nature and yet you knew they actually happened.  Once he would finish the story he would shrug and give an almost boyish giggle as though to say "I'm amazed by it too!".  Despite the simplicity he showed on the outside, there was a terrific mechanical genius on the inside.  He told me once that he would get a job at the machine shop he owned that he didn't even have a machine capable of doing.  So he would lay awake at night and picture the process needed to make this certain part and he could design a new machine in his head, and go build it. 

I was incredibly lucky to have been part of Richard's life, and the entire Fink family's life for that matter.  He was so patient and gracious having this young twerp hanging around all the time, yet I never felt he looked at it that way.  He taught me to ride dirt bikes, took me for motorcycle rides, and let me hang with him at the mountain cabin.  We bowled together for a number for a few years and he got to know my wife and son.  As the years went on, the family moved from state to state, but we still kept loosely in touch.  I last saw Richard at his 80th birthday party.  He should have been ashamed of how good he looked for that age!  We wrote a few letters.  The last we spoke was a phone call 5 years ago when we had our 25th Anniversary party.

The last few communications with him I made it a point to tell him that his friendship and willingness to essentially adopt me as one of his own was one of the most important things in my life growing up.  I hope he understood that.  I hope he understood that as I got older I looked back on that relationship with him and the entire family as a true gift that is beyond any earthly value. 

Richard...you deserve a very special place in heaven and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for every story, and laugh, and adventure that you provided me.  God speed.  Love, Tommy.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

The Coronavirus

Put any 10 people into a room right now and you very well might get 10 different opinions about the Coronavirus.  These opinions will range wildly from panic, to claiming it as a conspiracy to cost Trump the election.

I'm not going to offer my own opinion necessarily, but rather I will focus on how frightening the prospect is as a special needs parent.

For now lets make the assumption that there will be infections locally.  The impact that this could cause for Tyler could be quite frightening.  Consider:

1. Tyler attends a day program with many other disabled individuals with many types of disabilities.  I cannot image the challenge to keep perfect hygiene in a place where there are adults in diapers, drooling, hands constantly at faces, etc.  Even in the best of circumstances its got to be a breeding ground for germs.

2. What happens if Tyler, or the staff contract the virus?  How will the agency maintain staffing levels if the worst scenario comes true?  Tyler and his housemate are not able to care for themselves in an emergency.

3. Tyler, like many other in the special needs community, has pre-existing conditions.  While these are not specifically threatening against the virus, how many others are in the direct line of fire because of theirs?

These are serious issues that nursing homes, group homes, and other care facilities are about to run headlong straight into.  I just hope and pray we don't reach some of these possibilities.

Be well and God bless.   Tom

Friday, February 28, 2020

Communion Delayed is Communion Denied

I don't know the LaCugna family personally, but I understand their struggles.  Their son Anthony is non-verbal with a serious form of autism.  Like Tyler, he also appears to be a very beautiful young man with a supportive family.

What is so often underestimated is how special needs families struggle with the daily life occurrences that others very easily take for granted.  Robin and I once had to fight to give Tyler a private place to go to the bathroom at his school.  Another time, we had to fight for a bus schedule that would protect other children from his aggression.  Tyler cannot fight for his own rights, and many institutions in our world won't stand up and fight for them on his behalf either.  It's the family who must dig in and be that advocate.

This week, the LaCugna family found out that their son would not be permitted to participate in Holy Communion due to his disability.  According to their church, Saint Aloysius Parish in Jackson, NJ, he does not meet the criteria of partaking because he cannot understand right from wrong.  Apparently they do not believe that he can profess his relationship with God in a manner appropriate for communion.

First, let me say this.  NOBODY can know what Anthony's relationship is with God, just as nobody could know what Tyler's relationship with God is.  Just because they are non-verbal doesn't mean that they aren't speaking with God.  In fact, I would submit that because they have no natural inclination to sin, they are walking right alongside God every day.

Secondly, I have seen God work through Tyler in ways that have astounded me.  Tyler has brought family members back to the church after long estrangement periods.  Tyler has told his story (through me) to tens of thousands of people throughout the world.  Tyler has given Bibles to those who have needed them.  We will never know the scope of his impact, just as we will never know the scope of Anthony's impact.  But I promise you, they are working closer to God than most of us stumbling "normal" mortals are.

Lastly, Tyler and Anthony are specially made and loved by God.  God made them to be different. They are blessed creatures that deserve to be honored and protected in every phase of their lives.  God would want us to include his most precious children in communion. 

I predict that the church will realize that this arrogance and ego-self-righteousness isn't going to be worth the outcry to follow.  They appear to already be back-peddling and trying to claim this as a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of their true intentions.  It's not.  They are in damage control mode.

To the LaCugna family I say this...my family will pray for you all.  We are proud of your conviction and your willingness to fight for your son.  He has every right to practice his beliefs in his own way.

And if you need a nice church to attend where Anthony is welcome for communion...join my family any Sunday you wish.  Where I come from, we honor God's special children.

Be well and God bless.   Tom 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Mama I'm Coming Home

I grew up a fan of classic and hard rock.  From the first time I heard Ozzy Osbourne I liked his music.  It's easy to dismiss Ozzy because of his oft publicized younger exploits (many of which are more legend than fact) and his self-referral of being the Prince of Darkness.  In reality, Ozzy has been a major part of Rock and Roll for over 50 years, and continues to be relevant today.  The main reason I respect Ozzy is for his gentle sensibilities.  Ozzy is actually a very thoughtful and gentle person at heart.  His songs often denounce war and man's inhumanity to man.  Watching his road trip show with his son Jack makes you quickly realize that he is a humble man who adores his dogs and his family.  The Prince of Darkness is more persona than practice as he reaches 70 years old.

In the spring of 1992 we were anxiously awaiting our Tyler to arrive.  The amount of worrying we did was overwhelming.  As we were reaching the final days and hours of her pregnancy, we began hearing Ozzy's latest release on the radio "Mama, I'm Coming Home".  And when we went to take Tyler home from the hospital, the song was playing again.  All we wanted in the entire world was to take our baby away from the hospital, and to the safety of our home.

"I've seen your face a thousand times
Every day we've been apart
I don't care about the sunshine, yeah
'Cause Mama I'm coming home"

We all interpret songs to our own personal situations and these verses said to us "we don't care about anything else right now...our boy is coming home so we can face things as a family".  It was a powerful window in time that was forever marked by that song.

In 2018 we had the opportunity to see Ozzy in concert for the first time.  At about the mid-point of the show he played "Mama, I'm coming home".  I wrapped my arms around my wife and we stood listening to him perform Tyler's anthem.  It was a touching and surreal moment for me, as I'm sure it was for her.  As with so many things, it allowed Tyler to be right there with us.

Unfortunately it sounds as though Ozzy will be cancelling any hopes of touring in the future due to health problems.  There are times that his posts seem to suggest that he is ready for the final stage of life to begin.  Its just nice knowing that whenever I feel like peeking into that little window of our life in 1992, Ozzy will be there to sing "Mama, I'm Coming Home" for me.

Be well and God bless.    Tom